The Net Promoter Score: What It Is, and How To Use It

Categories: Analytics, Case Studies, Implementation, | Tue, 21 Apr 2020 15:00:00 GMT
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THE 2-question survey THAT saved comcast.

Part 1 of a 3 part series on community surveys.
In 2014, a technology reviewer recorded a customer service call with Comcast to cancel his account. 

The incident went so horribly viral that TIME magazine wrote about it – and the fallout did not end well. Comcast ended 2014 with the distinction of being listed below Monsanto as the worst company in America

So you might imagine my apprehension when, down on my luck and without enough freelance clients to support myself, I went to work for a newly-formed Comcast Xfinity call center in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

I expected a repeat of the nightmare above.

​Instead, I joined one of the best companies to work for in 2019.

Comcast – A veritable titanic of a company renowned for its “meh” service packages and its awful customer service – went from “worse than Monsanto” to one of INC.’s top 100 companies to work for in the space of just 5 years. 

Using NPS, Comcast turned a doomed-to-sink titanic headed for an iceberg, on a dime like it was a 10-person rowboat.

Comcast NBC Universal implemented the Net Promoter score and is now the 71st best place to work in the US

How did Comcast change its reputation? More importantly, what can this teach us about how to run projects, companies, and communities?

TL;DR: Comcast used a 2-question survey called the Net Promoter Score. Implementing it can connect you to your constituents, empower them to speak up, and give you the community feedback you need to make big decisions. Used correctly, the NPS can revive entire communities – and, as in Comcast’s case, brand reputation.

In this blog we’re going to discuss how the NPS works, and what makes it so powerful. Then in Part 2 of this 3-part blog on community surveys, we’re going to walk you through how you can implement it. 


The Net Promoter score is a small revision to a common customer service survey question.

It takes this question: 

“On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or family member?”
And turns it into this question:
“How happy are you with [1. the experience you had], [2. our brand], or [3. working for us]?”  
A picture of the Net Promoter Score rating Scale

The average statistics nerd might see a few key design differences:

  1. It speaks directly to the person
  2. It puts emotion before numbers
  3. It requires 3 different points of contact
  4. It doesn’t push for more detail
These design changes to the survey are the magic behind the NPS system.  

First, the point is not to see if your customers talk to others about your brand: They do. Instead, this question is about how they feel. Removing the “numbers” cuts to the emotional hind-brain, so the NPS uses emoticons so people will flag how they intrinsically feel

The last two changes are more complex. 

The question asked in the NPS has three different options to end it, but that’s not because you’re asking them three separate questions. It’s actually three completely separate surveys.

The Net Promoter Score accounts for the differences between:

  • How customers feel about the company overall and over time.
  • How customers feel about individual decisions a company makes.
  • How customers feel about (the representative) speaking on behalf of the company.

​Net Promoter Score doesn’t just account for customer feedback one time. It captures sentiment at multiple points along the Customer Value Journey, and it can capture the employees’ sides of the story as well. Collecting data at each of these junctures is the only way you can tease apart the complex feelings a person has about your brand or project.  

Let’s go back to the Comcast example.  

Contrary to popular belief, people are largely satisfied with Comcast’s internet services right up until the moment they’re not. People hate calling into Comcast for simple things like rebooting a modem. They dread the call, from being put on hold to actually dealing with a representative. Then, the representative they talk to has a large influence on how they feel about the company for days afterwards. Each progressive call mounts emotions on top of emotions.

A customer could get the absolute BEST customer service – but biased interactions might get in the way. If they already loathed calling in because the product broke or their service is spotty and they were expecting a nightmare call, their satisfaction rating likely won’t reflect their overall experience appropriately.

The NPS allows each customer to rate you several times, in different circumstances.  Then, it compares that customer’s response to the employee’s.  Still, it doesn’t matter how many times a person is surveyed: You’re still reducing a rich, full experience to an abstract, dry number.

So, let’s turn to the importance of that third change to the NPS question: the comment box.  

How to Score your NPS responses once implemented

why is the comments box so important for nps?

Physical NPS stand outside a McDonalds in the Denver International AirportPhysical NPS stand outside a McDonalds in DIA – Denver

As a marketer and community manager it’s difficult to stress to software developers, DevOps teams, and executives how important qualitative data like social media comments are. So, they’re often ignored as some wasteful customer service thing. 

In truth, this data can be hugely helpful – if it’s used correctly.

In previous research by GetApp – “How big data is used on today’s IT teams” – the #1 recommendation for using big data to make business decisions was to implement a qualitative data system.

The NPS cleverly integrates qualitative data collection front and center without asking too much from respondents. Measuring it is another story as we’ll discuss in Part 3, but this is a solid step. 

By not asking people to elaborate on their responses, in the initial question, NPS doesn’t scare away those who otherwise wouldn’t spend a moment taking a survey. It allows people to click the emoji they identify with at the end of the interaction and move on. As a result, you get more – and more natural – responses than just the people willing to take the survey.  

At the same time however, the people who truly do have things to say have an unlimited amount of space in a defined box to say it. 

This is where companies can find the biggest, most important insights.  

the value of qualitative data

While I was working as the Marketer-in-Residence at a customer posted on their facebook group about a concern with DigitalMarketer over-emailing him. His post was longer than this article. Hundreds of people responded in the comments and the community manager let the conversation role. A flood of people who otherwise wouldn’t have spoken, did.

This qualitative comment off the back of an email caused so much commotion that we spent 5 hours across the company discussing that Facebook post and the replies it garnered. DigitalMarketer’s email team built an entirely new email marketing deliverable out of that feedback and the company turned faulty email segmentation into one of its greatest successes.

Imagine if that person had access to a system similar to the NPS prior to his comment. Digital Marketer could have gotten that response months before hand.

DigitalMarketer module on how they saved their email marketing with qualitative data.


The NPS is a powerful social listening tool that introduces you to the treasure trove of insights qualitative data can offer to you. 

But in truth, the NPS is pretty low-hanging fruit among qualitative analysts. You can install it in a day if you have all your ducks in a row and there’s tons of insights left on the table for you to pick up as you get better. As the old adage goes; 

“First get good. Then get great.”

In Part 2 of this blog series, we’ll show you how to install an NPS system yourself.
Let us know if you need help getting started, find hang-ups, or have any questions! I’ll watch the comments section below, and if you have something more involved you would like to discuss, you can email me at Samantha@SociallyConstructed.Online.

Does NPS sound good? 

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Venia Logan

I’ve spent the past 9 years learning the diverse skills necessary to create strong stable online communities that put your brand’s services at their center. ​​I started my own YouTube channel in 2010, and RESCQU.NET in 2013. I worked for Constant Contact, and returned to college for a specialization in online community management. Then I attained all 12 certifications from DigitalMarketer and helped dozens of communities. Spend fewer resources advertising to cold contacts or buying paid media and get back to focusing on what you love by growing a community that is financially and socially rewarding for you.